Saturday, January 17, 2015

Guide to a Winter (Sunday) Layover in Munich

 I have recently been enjoying long layovers in new cities as an opportunity to get an extra mini-trip in when I travel! My most recent layover excursion was in Munich, Germany. I flew in at 7:40 am and left at 6:55 pm on Dec 28th 2014, giving me about 11 hours. For me and my travel style, it was the perfect amount of time! I’ll explain here what I did and give some tips for anyone else looking to do a layover in Munich with a little more or less time.
Keep in mind: the airport is about a 40 min train ride (plus max. 20 min wait time between trains) from the city center, so plan accordingly!
The airport also has a downloadable PDF stopover guide that is a good starting point and has some useful information on transportation and the airport itself.

Positives of Munich in the winter:

  • It's absolutely gorgeous in the snow and especially around Christmas all gussied up with fir, and ribbons, and lights
  • The world famous German Christkindlmarkt is open in the main square from Nov 27th-Dec 24th (if you miss this, the München Airport Center has a Christmas market open until the 28th)
  • Glühwein! Winter menu specials with chilis and stews; Bavarian classics are hearty and rich, perfect for cold weather 
  • Less tourists!
  • Women walking the Maximillionstrasse swathed in furs is excellent people watching 
  • Winter sports in Englischer Park! Cross country skiing, sledding, tobogganing, and I even saw three guys in wetsuits surfing on the near-frozen mini-rapids in the Isfar river that runs through the park (I have video!) 
Negatives of Munich in the winter
  • It can get COLD; it was hovering a few notches below freezing on my visit and snowed steadily almost the whole time. Apparently winter came late this year (2014) and it was only a few days in, which is why there was only about 3 inches of accumulation. Usually snow starts in mid-November and by late December it can be up to your knees! The city does a good job of keeping pedestrian areas in the city center navigable.
    the band at the hofbrauhaus
  • There are no nude sunbathers in the Englischer Park (I know, I looked for them)
  • It is likely to be grey and snow-cloudy, so you won't get the best views from the towers in the Marienplatz- certainly not to the Alps as is rumored on clear days
Going on a Sunday
  • There are less crowds and the streets are quieter
  • Most shops are closed, but restaurants remain open
  • The famous and beloved Viktualienmarkt is closed (major bummer)
  • The Rathaus tower is closed (but you can still climb Alter Peter, which is really the view you want anyway so you can actually see the most famous landmark- the Rathaus)
  • Pinokotheke Museums are just 1 euro! 
    Ludwig Church
  • Church services: if you are religious, or are interested in seeing a service, all the big tourist churches are still working places of worship with services at various times on Sunday mornings. During a service, you are asked not to take pictures or walk around the aisles for obvious reasons, but no one seemed to have a problem with me standing in the back quietly with my big backpack and watching for a bit. The churches still had their Christmas decorations up and it was beautiful!    
Still not sure if winter is the best time for you? Check out these statistics about tourism-related factors in Munich throughout the year!

my lunch at cafe rischart

My Planned Itinerary (for the energetic, fast-paced traveler)
·         9: Arrive in the city, find a café to sit and write thank you notes

·         10: climb Peterskirche and look at the church inside

·         11: see the Rathaus glockenspiel chime and ‘show’

·         11:30: head to the Alte Pinokothek

·         13: find lunch

·         14: Deutches Museum

·         15:30: Englischer Park

·         16: a final beer at Hofbrauhaus

·         16:30: catch the train back to the airport

Looking at it now with the times written out, this was clearly optimistic. I ended up skipping both museums, spending way more time in churcheS and Englischer Park than I anticipated, and enjoying a gluhwein and dessert-lunch at a bar across from Hofbrauhaus! 

Below I have listed the attractions I visited (or didn’t) in order of importance, as determined by me (who has spent a total of 11 hrs in Munich). If you’re pressed for time, start with number 1 and work your way down.

1.      Marienplatz: main square of the city, starting point for most tours (there will be people in the square in the morning offering bus and walking tours),U-bahn and S-bahn station
a.      Peterskirche: one of the prettiest churches in Munich, lots of color; €1.50 (€1. for students) to climb the 300 steps up the tower for a great view of the city and an awesome vantage point to watch the carillon glockenspiel show
b.      Neues Rathaus: also has a climbable tower, but is closed on Sundays
c.       The Marian column in the square's center
2.      Frauenkirche: one of the city’s most recognizable buildings with its soaring, onion-domed towers
3.      Englischer Garden: bustling in both summer and winter! In the winter, people still go out with dogs (well trained, not on leashes) to feed geese in ponds, sled, cross country ski, jog, or get a drink at one of the park’s 3 beer gardens. Englischer garden is bigger than Central Park in NYC and contains several sites worth seeking out in its rolling hills.
a.      Chinese tower
b.      Japanese teahouse
c.       Diana Temple
4.      Odeonsplatz: another square, not far from Marienplatz; makes a nice addition to a walking tour of the city center.
a.      Residenz/Opera
c.      Theatinerkirche
d.       Hofgarten
e.      Maximillianstrasse
5.      Hofbräuhaus: Kitschy and a bit over-touristed for my taste, but it is definitely worth walking in and looking around, listening to the oom-pah band for a bit. Good for large groups, not so good for solo travelers. One of the oldest beer houses in the city, and has an atmosphere consistent with the “classic” Bavaria of decades past.
6.      Viktualienmarkt: open air market filled with fresh, organic, and diverse foods and trinkets; great place to get a hot chocolate/glühwein or to pick up groceries for a traditional home cooked meal; closed on Sundays
7.      The Pinakothek Museums: Three museums (alte= Old Masters, neue= 19th c., moderne= modern art), admission on Sundays is only 1 euro!
8.      DeutschesMuseum: The world's largest museum of science and technology ;8,50 for adults, 3 for students
9.      Kaufinger Strasse: One of the oldest streets in Munich and its busiest shopping street
10.  Maximillian Strasse: One of the city's four "royal avenues"- it's ritzy, glamorous, and very expensive
11.  City gates: There are four pretty gates left from what was once a wall encircling medieval Munich

Transportation: If you’re coming from the airport, the best thing to do is to buy a pass that allows you to ride all public transportation in the city (S-bahn to and from the airport, U-bahn, buses, trams) for €12. Purchase from electronic machines on the S-bahn platform. Hold your ticket with you, but it probably won't be checked.